California Divorce Laws

The Family Law Code contains California divorce laws that must be applied in a divorce or family law dispute. Some people need the assistance of an attorney to interpret most of the Family Law Code. Below is a general overview of California divorce laws which pertain to a divorce. Read on to learn more.

California Divorce Laws Residency Requirements

A couple filing for divorce in California must meet the residency requirement.  One spouse must have lived in California for the past six months and lived in the county where the divorce is filed for the past three months.  If a couple does not meet the residency requirement, but wishes to begin the divorce proceeding, they can file a legal separation and amend the filing once the residency requirement is met.

Grounds for Divorce in California

In California, there are only two grounds for divorce: 1. Irreconcilable differences that have caused an irreparable breakdown in the marriage and 2. Incurable insanity.  “Irreconcilable differences” is a term used in jurisdictions with no-fault divorces.  The court will not assign blame to one party in a divorce proceeding.  In California, only one party needs to claim that there are irreconcilable differences.  The only other legal ground for divorce in California is permanent and incurable insanity, which must be based on medical evidence and testimony.

Division of Property Laws

California is a community property state.  Any income earned during the marriage is considered community property.  Assets that the spouses had prior to the marriage or earned after they permanently separated is considered their separate property.  Income from gifts or inheritance is considered separate property, even if it was acquired during the marriage.  The same rule also applies to debts- any debt incurred during the marriage will be considered community debt, and each spouse will have an obligation to repay half of it.  Couples are free to have a written agreement, such as a prenuptial agreement, that certain assets and income will be separate property.

When a couple divorces in California, they will need to determine which assets are community property and which are separate property.  Once assets have been classified as separate or community property, each spouse is entitled to 100% of their separate property and 50% of the community property.  Couples can divide their assets any way they want, so long as the community debts and assets are evenly divided.  If the spouses cannot agree to a settlement, a court will do it for them.

Spousal Support

Spousal support is not automatic.  A judge will look at the circumstances of the couple and determine if spousal support is warranted.  The general idea behind spousal support is that if there is a large income disparity between the couples, that the lesser earning spouse will not be destitute.  Spousal support is designed to give a lesser earning spouse income to “get back on their feet.”  For example, if one spouse lacks marketable skills because he/she provided child care and domestic duties, they can get support to return to school or a training program.  Spousal support is awarded in which a spouse can maintain the marital standard of living during the divorce. Alimony may be awarded (in the divorce judgment) for up to half the length of the marriage.  Spousal support automatically ends if the supported spouse remarries.

Child Custody and Support

When determining child custody, the court in California does not favor a mother over a father or vice versa.  The court will make a decision based on the best interest of the child.  When awarding custody, a court considers the child’s health and safety, amount of contact with both parents, and any history of child abuse or substance abuse.  The court may award primary custody to a parent who is the most suitable to provide proper care to the child.  Typically, the non-custodial parent (parent with visitation) will be ordered to pay child support.  The amount of child support is based on a statewide formula that considers factors such as the available income of each parent, the amount of time each parent spends with the children, the number of children, and the cost of education and child care.  Child support ends when the child turns 18, if the child has not graduated high school, or turns 19.

California Divorce Waiting Period

Once a divorce is filed, there is a minimum six-month waiting period before the divorce will be final, even if both spouses are in total agreement about the division of property, spousal support, and child custody issues.  If the spouses disagree on these issues, the divorce proceeding could take considerably longer.

 

Common California divorce Laws Infographic

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